Transcending America’s Pacific coastline aboard Amtrak’s Coast Starlight.
Sat in the front seat of a Saltspring Air float plane, I enjoyed breathtaking views of Vancouver as I descended into its harbour, landing just in front of Canada Place. For such a densely populated city, I felt I’d arrived somewhere small and friendly, certifying its status as one of the world’s most liveable cities.
After checking into the St. Regis Hotel (worthy of mention, and highly recommended) I briefly explored the waterfront before meeting up with Stephanie, Dave and other web geeks at the Alibi Room in Gastown. In the company of several beer experts, I sought recommendations on which four I should sample on my ‘Frat-Bat’. I ended up drinking quite a mix: King Heffy, Fat Tug, Tree Vertical and Long Boat. I forget which was my favourite.
I was unsure how to spend my single day in Vancouver. Dave recommended visiting Stanley Park if the weather was good; luckily the predicted rainfall was absent so I headed in that direction. I was easily drawn into this expansive park; beautiful in and of itself yet also a great spot to find magnificent views of the cityscape. Always on the look out for a good walking trail, I spotted the 8.8km Seawall and followed the circumference of the park.
From this trail I saw the Harry Jerome statue, the 9 O’Clock Gun, the Lionsgate Bridge stretching across the harbour, and in the distance much of Vancouver’s industry, including mounds of Sulphur located irresponsibly close to such a populated city. Halfway round, I stopped to admire the limitless views across the Salish Sea, where sailboats and oil tankers floated upon a still mirror-like surface.
As I reached the end of the trail, the heavens opened. With a distance between me and my hotel, I was soon soaked to the bone. Reverting to type, I ended up in the local mall and regrettably ate something vaguely resembling sweet and sour chicken in the food court. Never again.
That was it. Just one day in Vancouver, but I’d seen enough to warrant a return visit. At 5am, I took a taxi to the railway station, where I caught a coach to Seattle to catch the Coast Starlight to San Francisco. This involved crossing the border; cue an arrogant, unfriendly border guard, with a line of questioning that assumed guilt. I was back in the United States.
After eight days exploring North America, it was time to visit some of its more westerly extremities. Flying out from Toronto, my first stop was Saltspring Island, via Vancouver Airport and a float plane.
Some cities are best arrived at by air; only by flying over Sydney, London or New York do you get a sense of their scale and majesty. San Francisco is best approached by car, with some of the best views of that city seen as you cross the Bay Bridge. Others are best suited to arrival by train. Toronto is one such city.
After four days in Washington, it was on to another North American capital, Ottawa. I encountered a city that was cold yet plentiful in ATMs that would refuse to accept my debit card.
My North American adventure started in Washington DC; ostensibly so I could attend an edition of this year’s An Event Apart conference. Yet it was also a good excuse to catch up with Shannon, who graciously planned a tour of the city for me and Andy.
Having tried so diligently last year to reduce the amount of flying I do, I hoped to keep this year’s long-haul flights to one. With an important part of my family now settled in São Paulo, and some of my best friends based in San Francisco, maybe such lofty goals are foolhardy. Before I write about my most recent travels, I address the hypocrisy in taking such a trip.